A vinaigrette is the simplest salad dressing of all and nothing can improve on its effect The ingredients must be of the best quality, as a vinaigrette is not an emulsified sauce but a light amalgamation in which the elements cling only briefly together. Always make vinaigrette fresh for every salad: the habit of making a dressing and keeping it for long periods in a bottle is abhorrent.
A classic vinaigrette contains only wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. The variations in flavour come from the type of vinegar used and the ratio of vinegar to oil (I use one part vinegar to four or five of oil). Experiment with different vinegars in combination with different salad leaves.
In the salad bowl put the vinegar, salt and pepper and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until the salt has dissolved. Always do this before adding the oil. Now beat the oil in until the elements have combined.
If you leave it to sit too long they will separate, so stir again just before adding the leaves. Always toss the salad to coat each leaf with a thin film of vinaigrette only just before eating.
If you have made the right amount of vinaigrette for the salad, none will be left in the bottom of the bowl, but every leaf will be dressed.
© 1993 Alastair Little and Richard Whittington estate. All rights reserved.